Botswana’s under-20 national soccer team might for the first time advance to the semifinals of the eighth edition of the regional Council for Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) cup, which will be held in South Africa. This follows news that Malawi, their hoodoo team, might not be able to make it due to financial straits that mar the Football Association of Malawi (FAM). Botswana, which is in the same group with Malawi, lost to a star-studded Malawi team in the Africa Championships qualifying games about three months ago. Malawi won by an aggregate score of 4-1.
According to some media reports from South Africa, FAM is struggling to raise about P120 000 needed for the expenses of the team, including allowances of the players. FAM is reported to be in debt of over P 1 million and no body has come forward to rescue them.
If Malawi does not make it, Botswana would be left with only Lesotho and Mauritius. The threat, however, remains Lesotho because the youth teams in that country have improved drastically in the past few years. In last year’s tournament, Lesotho even went as far as the finals where they narrowly lost to Madagascar. Mauritius is still the unknown quantity, but if history is anything to go by, Botswana might have an easy passage. Botswana teams have in the past never struggled against Mauritian ones.
Botswana’s under 20s have never made any impact in the COSAFA cup. Even the once respected youth teams such as the ‘Dream team’ and the ‘Diamond Zebras’ tumbled in the preliminary stages. The dream team that comprised, among others, Tshephiso Molwantwa, Diphetogo Selolwane, Seabo Gabanakgosi, Noah Kareng disappointed where many did not expect. That was because they had just graduated from the under 17 and were participating at the African youth championship tournament in Mali for the first time in Botswana history.
A lot was also expected from the diamond Zebras that, at one stage went to train in England, in preparations to host Africa youth Championship in 1997. Although Botswana lost horrendously in the under 17 tournament other people expected that to be a valuable lesson because they played against strong African countries like Ivory Coast and Egypt. It was however not to be as players like Mompati Thuma, Mpho Mabogo. Bothe Bolofete failed to rise to the occasion.
Even the youth teams that followed failed to impress.
The main undoing for the current team might be the fact that only a fraction of the team plays in the elite league while most are in regional leagues. Other countries that Botswana is going to face have their players already established in the elite leagues.
The team also went into camp very late, camping just eleven days before the tournament started. Late camping has been one of the reasons attributed to Botswana teams’ dismal performance, but the Botswana Football Association does not seem to be learning from that.
The tournament, sponsored by Metropolitan, a leading financial service provider, will be held in the North West Province. Most of the games will be played in Mafikeng, which is about 140 kilometers from Gaborone. The tournament will run from December 8 to 17.
The Islanders, Seychelles, are the only Southern African team that will not be participating in the tournament.
The Botswana team is under the tutelage of Police XI coach, Sthandwa Mogwadi and former national goalkeeper, Mooketsi ‘China’ Mading. The team will be finalised before December 06, when they leave for Mafikeng.
Monageng Thaele, Thabo Mbole, Tebogo Sebina, Bokang Mokwele, Kagiso Tutuwe, Mandla Mogadla, Kaone Molefhe, Jackie Mothatego, Olebogeng Motsemme, Tebogo Sembowa, Pako Moloi, Godi Mecunyane, Kutlo Sejeso, Mompoloki Sephekolo, Oabona Motsumi, Obakeng Gaanabeng, Faith Keletso, Gaopatwe Seoseng, Basimanebotlhe Moilwa, Thobo Rahube, Thato Ramoleele, Mollen Mabe, Godfrey Bokhutlo, Ontse Ntesa, Gabriel Ngele.
A: South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe
B: Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola
C: Lesotho, Botswana, Mauritius, and Malawi